David O. Mckay’s Lessons For Today’s Church

In the epilogue to the book David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, co-author Greg Prince writes of President McKay: David O. McKay inherited a church that was provincial and backward looking. His immediate predecessors wore beards and came from polygamous families, two powerful symbols that were out of touch with modernism. . . . Clean-shaven, immaculately dressed, and movie-star handsome, McKay immediately caught the attention of member and non-member alike, and held it. He democratized Mormonism, . . . [adjusting] the relationship between church and member. . . . He emphasized the paramount importance of free agency and individual expression, for he understood that improvement of the parts would inevitably improve the whole. “Let them conform” was replaced by “Let them grow.” He willingly discarded institutional uniformity for the higher goal of individual excellence. He pitched a wide tent and then told members of all stripes that he welcomed them to join him and build the church within it. In this plenary presentation, Prince will focus on President McKay’s leadership within the context of two forms of revelation. He will discuss the first form, “internal” revelatory processes, through the story of the various ways President McKay wrestled with the problems facing the Church because of its policy of withholding priesthood and temple blessings from black members. He will address the second form, “external” processes, in the context of the growth and development of the international church. What can we learn today as individuals and as a Church from President McKay’s revelatory experiences?

Gregory A. Prince